Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Ethnic festival celebrations in TnT

by Dr. Kwame Nantambu
November 14, 2005

The past celebration of Shubh Divali (or any Indian-Trinbagonian festival) clearly shows that Indian-Trinbagonians have been liberated while Afrikan-Trinbagonians have only been emancipated. This historical-cultural imbalance is evident in the language the Indian-Trinbagonian participants use during their ceremonies compared to the language Afrikan-Trinbagonians use in their festival celebrations.

The Indian-Trinbagonians use their original, Mother India tongue while the Afrikan-Trinbagonians always use the imposed/derived tongue of their European colonizer and slave-master.

As an emancipated people, Arfikan-Trinbagonians are suffering from the deadly diseases of Afrika-sclerosis, mental paralysis, induced collective historical-cultural amnesia and collective lobotomy.

The fact of the matter is that having an Afrikan name, wearing Afrikan outfits and knowledgeable in Afrikan history do not make one an Afrikan-- such a person may be a glorified Trinbagonian Negro.

The reality is that there is a significant difference between someone who is an Indian-Trinbagonian versus someone who is an Afrikan-Trinbagonian.

The former label represents direct, internal connectedness and location with Mother India 24-7-365 while the latter represents indirect, external dis-connectedness and dis-location with Mother Afrika.

Indeed, Afrikan-Trinbagonians need to reflect on the solemn, intellectual, holistic and global-oriented local TV coverage of Shubh Divali 2k5.

The clear message was : Location, Location, Location; Power versus Powerlessness.

It is also very interesting to observe that at every annual Indian-Trinbagonian Shubh Divali celebration, there is always a mad, irresistible "Holiday rush for roti" skins by Afrikan-Trinbagonians. However, such a "holiday rush" for Afrikan-Creole dishes is never ethnically reciprocated at any annual Afrikan-Trinbagonian Emancipation Day celebration.

This anomaly is very interesting in the context that some Indian-Trinbagonians publicly call for national unity and an end to racial discrimination, bigotry and any "naked act" of imposing "colonial cultural and religious oppression."

Furthermore, the record also reveals that some Indian-Trinbagonians in public and private employment totally refuse to attend and/or participate in Afrikan-Trinbagonian Emancipation Day celebrations in their respective office.

Indeed, such ethnocentric (lack of tolerance for other cultures) and etnocentric (lack of tolerance for other races) Indian-Trinbagonians just do not report for work on that Day.

Such action only manifests the overt and pronounced disdain they have for Afrikan history and culture, in general and for Afrikan-Trinbagionians, in particular.

Who is fooling whom? National unity must be a two-way street and no side of this street must be wider nor more important , albeit superior, than the other.

It is also very interesting/revealing/instructive to observe the extensive ex ante and ex post Divali local TV programming 2k5.

In the case of the Afrikan-Trinbagonian Emancipation Day ( or any Afrikan-Trinbagonian) festival there is no extensive ex ante and ex post TV programming. At best, there may be a token one hour programme aired on the night before Emancipation Day and interviews on morning talk shows on the Day itself cum sporadic guest appearances on radio programmes.

"Live TV" coverage focuses only on the carnival-like atmosphere parade through the streets of Port-of-Spain culminating in the Dimanche Gras -like entertainment show at the same Queen's Park Savannah as on carnival Monday and Tuesday.

In other words, when it comes to local TV coverage of Afrikan-Trinbagonian Emancipation Day celebration, the subliminal impression/message given is that this festival is devoid of any serious historical- intellectual ,significance, substance, and value; it is just another carnival-bacchanal-"having ah good, good time" day for Afrikan-Trinbagonians.

In this case, perception becomes reality.

Another subliminal impression/message given is that like their forefathers from Afrika (whom His-Story suggests contributed nothing to world history, culture and civilization), Afrikan-Trinibagonians have also contributed very little to TnT's history, economy and civilization--- carnival, bacchanal and steel pan are their only meaningful contribution.

In other words, just as American TV portrays Afrikan-Americans in roles replete with violence, drugs, alcohol, sports, anti-social behaviour and negativity, so too local TV coverage of Afrikan-Trinbagonians on Emancipation Day is shrouded in the swaddling clothes of carnival and bacchanal.

For where as one would be correct in concluding that in the case of Afrikan-Americans, their lot is steeped in overt racism and their constitutional inferiority (as in "three-fifths of a person") vis--vis the mainstream population; however, in the case of Afrikan-Trinbagonians, their lot is justified.

In this specific instance, social commentator Leroy Calliste, "Black stalin", is perfectly correct to the extent that in spite of the seriousness and tumultous nature of our times "De Black man (and Black woman still) come out to party hearty all night long." Just "come with it."

Fellow commentator Michael Anthony Asuna, "Sugar Aloes", lends fulcrum to Stalin's assertion by contending that Afrikan-Trinbagonians "have some nerve--- yuh get de (TV portrayal) yuh deserve."

Indeed, the carnival-"excess" genes of Afrikan-Trinbagonians seem to make them numb and/or totally oblivious to the stark ,untenable, and unacceptable national reality of a murder-death rate of 338, over 200 kidnappings, rampant violence in schools, breakdown in family-moral values, skyrocketing basic food prices, vagrancy, bombings, HIV/AIDS, plus prolonged periods of dry taps, overflowing cesspits and uncontrollable flooding cum massive destruction to personal and private property compounded by decades of bad roads and clogged-up drainage ( that is, infra-structural debacle) in Belmont, eastern and central Trinidad.

Indeed, one could correctly conclude that Afrikan-Trinbagonians resemble their portrayal on local TV on carnival Emancipation Day.. For where as lyrics suggest that the average Afrikan-American is "just living for the weekend", reality suggests that the average Afrikan-Trinbagonian just lives for carnival, "jump, jump ; yeah, yeah, wine up, wine up" and bacchanal 24-7-365---- these symptoms are in their blood, sweat and veins. They are the tested fingerprints of Afrikan-Trinbagonians' DNA.

The fact of the matter is that the celebration of ethnic festivals should be used as a potent ready-made glue to unite/bind all Trinbagonians in the true spirit of our national anthem where "every creed and race find and equal place."

This must be a collective, national effort; half measures will not work. However, for this to become a reality, each Trinbagonian must respect the other's history and culture. This is not the case in TnT, as yet.

Truth Be Told: National dis-unity .mayhem, ethnic hatred/strife/discrimination and anti-social behaviour, as in crime cum kidnappings, will continue to be the order of the day as long as disrespect for each other's history and culture exists.

You cannot respect someone while you disrespect his history/culture at the same time; it just does not work that way in the real world--- not even in TnT. Respect is a two-way street.

Truth Be Told: Now is the time for Afrikan-Trinbagonians and Indian-Trinbagonians both of whom were enslaved and colonized by Europeans to come together and let our common history be the potent glue to conjoin us together and put us on the same. solidified road to national unity.

History is the only mechanism that can sow the seeds of respect for each other and each other's culture and the rampant escalation of crime and violence that affects all Trinbagonians, regardless of ethnicity , must force all of us to heed the apocalyptic warning of slain Afrikan-American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King: "Now the judgement of God is upon us and we must either learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or we are all going to die together as fools."

In the final analysis, if this communal, consensual and reciprocal living-togetherness does not materialize then national unity will "remain a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained" thus:
Crime in the East
Violence in the West
Kidnapping down South
Killing up North
Crime, violence, rumors of a kidnapping
Until that national consensus.
Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part time lecturer at Cipriani Labour College and University of the West Indies.

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